Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012 Closer Strategies - Finding Cheap Saves

This week alone we have seen Joakim Soria, Royals Closer, go down needing Tommy John Surgery, Ryan Madson, Reds Closer, also need TJS, and Drew Storen, Nationals Closer, has inflammation in his elbow but apparently no structural damage, he may not be available for the start of the season. That is enough to make almost anyone question the decision to pay market rates for saves.

Why Paying Full Price (Dollars or Draft Picks) Is Dangerous

Closers get hurt and replaced constantly. Even when you think someone has settled into a role as a dominant closer, things can change very quickly. Carlos Marmol certainly is not as secure in the role of Cubs closer as he seemed this time a year ago. Many analysts are pointing at Marlins closer Heath Bell's declining K-Rate as a reason to be cautious when drafting him.New York's Mariano Rivera looks like a safe investment but the Yankees closer is 42-years old! I do not mean to come off like Fox News, but grabbing saves with early picks or top dollars is playing with a potential disaster.

The save category represents just ten percent of your potential points in the standings in a standard 5x5 roto league. But if you are spending fourth and fifth round picks or spending 20 to even 30 dollars on a closer you are spending nearly 12 percent on just one closer for one category. You will probably need two closers to finish at the top of the category. Look at it like this - if you spend 30 dollars on the right hitter, say Carlos Gonzalez, you'll get major contributions to five categories. Even spending 30 on a starter like Clayton Kershaw will get you four categories.

It probably sounds like I am advocating punting saves as a category, but that is not the case. I am not saying not to get saves, just not to pay so much for them. The average closer pitches fewer than 60 innings a season and a lot of them less than that. This really reduces their impact on ERA, Ratio, and Strikeouts. If you spend a good portion of the dollars dedicated to saves on improving your starters (get guys with lots of quality innings) you can even further reduce a closer's impact on the non-save categories. Why would you want to do that?

Drafting the Closers No One Else Wants

At first it probably seems like a plan bound to fail. However, it makes some sense. No further testimony is needed to see that no closer is safe. Even the most highly rated closer can get hurt or lose his job. By spending more of our pitching budget on quality starters we can lessen the impact a lower ranked closer's ERA or WHIP can have on your standings points. The following closers are at the bottom of most rankings but are fairly secure in their roles.

Frank Francisco, New York Mets
Brett Myers, Houston Astros
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners

Pick the closers that have jobs but have analysts speculating on their job security. Any closer can be ineffective for a short period and then lose his job. It is even possible that despite the speculation the closer remains in the role for the entire season. The following closers have the closer role heading into the regular season but are not expected to hold onto the job.

Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox - to be replaced by Addison Reed
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians - to be replaced by Vinne Pestano
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers - to be replaced by Kenley Jansen
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics - pick 'em: Brian Fuentes, Joey Devine, Fautino De Los Santos

These closers have an injury or a history of injury that may put their value into question.

Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals

Picking your closers from these groups will usually allow you to build a decent base of saves without spending nearly as much as you would drafting the best and safest options. The idea is to get them cheaply enough that the difference in cost allows you to improve your starting pitching.

If you get caught sleeping and miss out on all the closers draft one of these future closers. They aren't in any order.

Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland Indians
Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
Glenn Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Mike Adams, Texas Rangers
Brad Brach, San Diego Padres
Ramon Ramirez, New York Mets

Good luck adding saves on the cheap.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Expert League: Triple Crown AL-Only

Earlier this week I participated in the Triple Crown Al-Only expert league auction. The league is run on and is sponsored by, where I used to work.

The league includes a lot of talented writers - Dave Gawron,; Al Melchior,; George Fitopoulos, Baseball Professor; Matt Torvomina, Fantasy Gameday; Steve Parsons (freelance); Nick Fleder, HardBallTimes; Keith Hernandez, KFFL; Ian Riley,; Michael Pichan,; Eric Stashin and Will Overton,; and William Bender, Sporting News.

The Plan
I have the unfortunate distinction of coming in last two years running in this league. That will not happen again. Part of the problem has been not focusing enough on the league. bad luck also played a large role. Either way, I fully intend to do everything possible to win this league this year.

My strategy was to use my first 160-180 on as many studs as possible and save 80-100 for the middle and late round bargains. I overshot the mark on the studs and spent over 200 before reaching even the halfway point. I got caught trying to price enforce a couple of times, which is something much easier to do in a live auction. In an online auction you can't read body language and other signals that will tell you an owner is willing to go further. Lesson learned.

Still despite the budget problems I like this team much better than the ones I drafted in 2010 and 2011. I am already on the hunt for saves which I failed to acquire, not unusual for me.

C Ryan Lavarnway 1 - A very good hitter, Bobby Valentine is a big fan, he'll be a factor
C Hank Conger 1 - Not scheduled for many at-bats but Chris Ianetta has disappointed before

1B Adrian Gonzalez 36 - I didn't mean get him but I'm okay with a potential Triple Crown
3B Alberto Callapso 1 - I can't believe Mark Trumbo will last at third base, he'll get At-Bats
CR Prince Fielder 35 - I really wanted him, I think the Tigers are going to have a big year.

2B Johnny Giavotella 8 - One of my favorites, I think he'll hit for average and score tons
SS Nick Punto 1 - Not great, but hopefully he will steal bases
MI Reid Brignac 1 - he'll start the season on the DL, he used to have some potential...

OF Curtis Granderson 36 - I love him, I think he'll come close to a repeat of 2011
OF Alex Gordon 27 - I have him projected for a big year following his breakout 2011 season
OF BJ Upton 35 - His skills are coming together and its a contract year
OF Yoenis Cespedes 13 - He may start slowly but I see 25-30 homers
OF Rajai Davis 5 - Even off the bench he'll steal 20-30 bases

U Travis Hafner 1 - A solid bat in a productive Indians lineup

SP CJ Wilson 19 - My favorite for American League Cy Young
SP Brandon McCarthy 13 - If he stays healthy he'll be in the Cy talk too
SP Yu Darvish 18 - He has ace potential and I think he'll live up to it
SP Derek Lowe 1 - The strikeouts are low but he is a solid and usually dependable starter
P Blake Beavan 1 - I think he will be a lot like Lowe, Safeco helps
P Alex Cobb 1 - If he could get free he could pitch in the middle of a dozen rotations
RP David Robertson 4 - Mariano's understudy, a great pitcher
RP Scott Downs 1 - The guy I think backs up Jordon Walden
RP George Sherrill 1 - A solid relief pitcher likely to get cut for saves at some point

R1 Ryan Flaherty - The Orioles Rule V pick could be the starter at second base
R2 Brandon Inge - Fighting for a job, if he finds one he can provide some power with a low BA
R3 Kila Ka'aihue - A candidate for the first base job, he can hit
R4 Russell Branyan - If Ibanez doesn't get it together, he could get major at-bats

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 FBF Expert League V

I had a couple of Expert League Drafts last night. First up was the 2012 FBF Expert League V, sponsored by Todd Farino of The Closer Report. It is a 12-team mixed head-to-head league. Standard rosters with a six-man bench, and 5x5 but using OBP instead of batting average.

You can hear some of the guys discussing the draft tonight at 8:30 EST on the Fantasy Baseball Tonight Show, hosted by Blog Talk Radio.

The Plan

Typically I would have used my stand-by strategy of drafting a strong offense and waiting on pitching while avoiding paying a premium for saves. This has worked for me quite often, except in Head-to-Head leagues. I developed a new strategy for H2H leagues this season and used it in this draft for the first time.

The idea was to build a roster that could dominate categories from week to week. So I decided i would go after players with power and speed, even if batting average (or in this case OBP) suffered. When the power/speed guys ran out I would concentrate on extreme speed or power hitters. I wanted a few top starters which meant I would have to take starting pitching earlier than usual. I also wanted to get enough closers to dominate the category or not bother with saves at all.

I think it worked pretty well.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia Bos
C Salvador Perez KC

1B Pablo Sandoval SF
3B Jose Bautista Tor
CR Paul Goldschmidt Ari

2B Dustin Pedroia Bos
SS Dee Gordon LAD
MI Jose Altuve Hou

OF Alex Gordon KC
OF BJ Upton TB
OF Martin Prado Atl
OF Jose Tabata Pit
OF Matt Joyce TB

U Chris Heisey Cin

Batting Bench - John Mayberry, Ian Stewart, Jed Lowrie

SP C.J. Wilson LAA
SP Madison Bumgarner
SP Jordon Zimmermann
SP Anibal Sanchez
SP Hiroki Kuroda
SP Ryan Dempster

RP Mariano Rivera
RP J.J. Putz
RP Sergio Santos

Pitching Bench - Grant Balfour, Sergio Romo, Carlos Zambrano

So, what do you think.

Ten Players I Love More Than You

I stole this idea from the Yahoo! Sports Columnists who posted their lists on Friday. This is not a top ten to draft list. This is a list of the guys I want to own in almost every draft this year. Guys I will draft far ahead of their ADP, that will I spend the extra dollar to own for the 2012 season.

Brandon McCarthy - I love Brandon McCarthy. He was always expected to be a very good MLB starter. He just kept getting hurt and when he was healthy he failed to deliver. Then he read Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and decided he needed to get more groundballs and more strikeouts. It is a great story, but more importantly he succeeded. Oklahoma City pitching coach, Terry Clark, helped him make a mechanical change.
Watching video of McCarthy's extreme overhand motion, Clark realized that the pitcher's arm was pronating at the moment of delivery, and the pressure was twisting his scapula. "It was really ugly," says Clark. "He's lucky his scapula was the only thing that broke." Clark had McCarthy drop down to a more natural three-quarter arm angle, like Halladay's. McCarthy's whole motion became a study in minimalism. Less right arm, more back leg. No more falling off the mound toward first base.
Do what it take to grab this guy while you still can. He has greatly improved skills, mechanics that should help him stay healthier in addition to helping him get more outs. There seem to be very few believers out there. Maybe because you thought the Athletics had traded their best starter away. They didn't.

B.J. Upton -
I loved him as a prospect and he disappointed and I avoided him for a few years. However, it looks like he has begun to put things together. He finished the 2011 season impressively, with what seemed to be a better approach. This comes as he approaches Free Agency for the first time. A contract year, improved skills and a better approach come together for a career year.

Alex Gordon - Despite his obvious improvement at the end of the 2010 season and his breakout 2011 season, Gordon is still being drafted later than he should. Maybe it has something to do with being one of the older young guys on the Kansas City Royals. It could be that his initial disappointments have turned potential owners off. Either way, I think he will hit for a great batting average, 25-30 homers and 20 steals.

Logan Morrison - The knee injury this spring is annoying but not dissuading me from drafting him. I see a player who has the skills to hit .300 and the power to blast 30 homers out of any park. Morrison ran into some bad luck with the broken hand in 2009 (which sapped his power in 2010) and the unfair demotion last season. He only needs to get a full season of at-bats to reach 30 homers, with some skill improvement it could be more. He hits like Joey Votto and you can get him 10 rounds later in a lot of drafts.

Curtis Granderson - Everyone is assuming that Granderson won't repeat his amazing 2011 season. Maybe he won't. I see an already great player in his prime who took some advice from a great batting coach that allowed him to tap into his full potential. I think a 30/30 season is a cinch. In my eyes he is more likely to go 50/50 than Matt Kemp.

Rex Brothers - I am absolutely certain you have heard about Kenley Jansen. You have at least read (if not been convinced) that Jansen will at some point snatch the closer job of the Los Angeles Dodgers away from Javy Guerra, who has done nothing to lose his job at this point.

Rex Brothers has every ounce of ability that Jansen has and is as likely (if not more so) to take the Colorado Rockies closer job from Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt has been a great reliever for a long time. He has been given the opportunity to close in the past and has always blown it. Maybe that's just coincidence or maybe it is a lack of guile or something.

Alexi Casilla - Maybe you have forgotten the lofty expectations once placed on Casilla's shoulders. Between disappointing seasons and injuries, it is easy to understand why you may not even have him on your cheat sheet. He dominated in the Dominican Winter League, batting .336 (runner-up for the batting title) and as of Sunday he was batting .357 in the Grapefruit League. He says he is in a better mental state than last season and his confidence is soaring. If he can stay healthy I expect great things.

He isn't afraid to take a walk and is an excellent contact hitter. He has more discipline at the plate than you may realize. He rarely swings at pitches out the strike zone and again, makes excellent contact. That and his speed is a recipe for a better batting average and with some BABIP luck I think he could hit over .300 this season. In a neutral park he could probably hit ten homers, but we'll be happy with whatever he provides as long as he comes through with the 30 steals. Draft him as your MI and reap the benefits.

Jed Lowrie - This is a tough player to evaluate because of the injuries and the variety of skills he has shown and then not shown at different times. He has looked like an above average defensive player, he has also looked like a below average defensive player. He has shown the ability to hit for power and to hit for average. He is a very intelligent player, he just finished his degree in political science from Stanford University. Unfortunately, injuries have sucked up a lot of the time he should have been developing into one of the better fantasy shortstops in the game.

The good news is that Lowrie is still just 26-years old and just entering his prime years. He is finally healthy coming into the 2012 season. He has swung a hot bat this swing - batting .348/.464/.609 as of yesterday. He fouled a ball off his foot and will miss just one game that he was not likely to travel for anyway. I think he'll hit for a strong batting average, get on base a ton and slug 20-plus homers. That is an awesome return on a late-round shortstop.

Luke Hochevar - The pedigree is first rate. He was expected to be an ace. A real ace, not just the number one starter by default. He has shown us flashes in the past and then failed to deliver the following season. Check out these numbers from after the All Star Break - 79.1 IP, 3.52 ERA, .222 BAA, 68 strikeouts, 24 walks and 6-3 record in 12 starts. That may not be an ace but it is a massive improvement. You can draft him extremely late so the risk is minimal.

Jason Heyward - Last but not even close to least is The New Kid, Jason Heyward. The 2011 season was obviously a disaster for the young Atlanta Brave. Few realize that Heyward first hurt his shoulder in April, he played through it but re-aggravated it and even though his numbers sunk he kept trying to play through it. Probably because he did not like how he had been labeled injury-prone after the 2010 season. The shoulder injury warped his swing and he got into bad habits and finally with everything out of whack he was sat on the bench to watch someone else do his job.

This off-season he changed his diet, improved and increased his workouts and came into camp a lean mean machine. He worked hard with the team coaches and Chipper Jones to get his swing back and they think they have it. He struggled the first two weeks of the Spring season (as did most of the Braves) but has hit a couple of massive blasts since the team started winning spring games. He can hit for average and power and steal bases. He is in a solid lineup and he is a crucial cog. I love him a lot, at least more than you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why I Do Not Worry About Carl Crawford

Go to your favorite fantasy baseball site (assuming it is not this one) and see what they have to say about former fantasy stud, Carl Crawford. Chances are they suggest that Crawford can probably rebound from his poor first season with the Red Sox but they preach caution due to the wrist injury. That kind of blurb makes a lot of sense. I am not very concerned with Crawford's wrist, but first a look at last season.

What Went Wrong

The most mentioned aspect of Crawford's 2011 season was probably his lousy start. It truly was abysmal. For March and April of the 2011 season Crawford had a wRC+ of 10. That's not just bad, that is like he was not even standing at the plate when they called him out. His career wRC+ is 110, which is slightly above average. For reference purposes, Albert Pujols has a career wRC+ of 167 and Yuniesky Betancourt's career number is 78.

The rest of the season looks pretty normal - May 114, June 102, July 69, August 111, and September/October (when the entire Red Sox lineup went into a slump) he was at 91. Take out April and a lousy injury-plagued July (only 48 at-bats) and he is pretty close to his career numbers. The funny thing about that is I was expecting a career season from Crawford in 2011.

Heading to the offensive environment of Fenway Park from the run suppressing Tropicana Field should have been a net gain for Crawford. Fenway does reduce lefty homeruns (by almost 20 percent the last three seasons) but pretty much boosts everything else. And Crawford was better at Fenway than on the road, a 92 wRC+ at home and a 76 on the road.

Carl Crawford was never a great hitter against left-handed pitchers and during the 2011 season he was worse than ever - 48 wRC+ versus a career 82 against lefties (career 113 against right-handers). Having a more typical year against lefties would bring his numbers almost right back where they should have been.

The Injuries

On June 17 of the 2011 season Crawford left the game with a strained hamstring. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list despite the injury being designated a type-one strain, the least severe. I felt at the time that the Red Sox were using the injury as an excuse to give Crawford a little break from his woeful season. I still believe that to some extent, but he did miss an entire month and that suggests the injury was more severe than was reported. This might have contributed to his low stolen base total. In September he missed a couple of games with neck soreness but this truly was minor.

In January when it was reported that Crawford would require surgery on his wrist Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told the Boston Globe that Crawford had experienced discomfort in the wrist during the 2011 season. This had not been previously reported, Cherington elaborated that Crawford sometimes had the same discomfort while with the Tampa Bay Rays. The surgery, which Cherington called “relatively routine,’’ was performed in Arizona by Dr. Donald Sheridan, who also operated on Crawford’s right hand in 2008. He was expected to be ready close to Opening Day.

Crawford seemed ahead of schedule at the start of Spring Training but suffered a set back when the wrist was hit during bunting drills. He may miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season but is expected to be 100 percent healthy at that point barring any further set backs.

Why I Do Not Worry About the Wrist

The wrists are important to a hitter, especially when it comes to hitting for power. Crawford is not a slap hitter but it would be wrong to call him a power hitter. Plenty of power hitters have had wrist surgery and returned to hitting as before. What usually happens is the power doesn't return as quite as fast, but it does come back. You would not draft Crawford for his power except as relative to the Michael Bourns and Brett Gardners of the player pool, especially as a lefty in Fenway Park.

By all the reports I could find this was relatively simple, routine surgery. It was initially expected he could be a participant in Spring Training games and be ready for Opening Day. He also apparently played through the wrist discomfort for years before he needed to do something about it. This suggests to me that the problem was very small and has been fixed. The rest is just getting it strong again.

The Subjective Conclusions

Most Red Sox analysts have come to the conclusion that Crawford after signing his record contract put too much pressure on himself to live up to it. That is probably at least a small part of what happened. I believe that the egg in this situation was just bad BABIP variance. Once he was already off to the bad start he may have put too much pressure on himself to snap out of it. That pressure was not necessarily a bad thing as it seemed to have rebounded his game in May. Then the injuries hit and sucked away what momentum towards a rebound he had built.

You know that saying "If it were not for bad luck, I would have no luck at all"? Carl Crawford lived that during the 2011 season. Crawford could not seem to draw an ounce of good fortune the entire season. The bad start, the pressure of the contract, the injuries and finally the team collapse all led to a career worse season for Crawford. Simple regression to his career numbers would be enough. If the universe is fair (yeah, it probably is not) Crawford will have some good luck in 2012. I'm sure Crawford would gladly accept no luck at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers Report


Top Targets: Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer, Jesus Montero
Post Hype: Jason Castro, Nick Hundley
New Skills/Opportunity: Tim Federowicz, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Vogt

Matt Wieters is my top catcher sleeper. He had a small breakout during the 2011 season but I believe there is still quite a bit of upside for fantasy owners... Joe Mauer has been injured more than most owners can stand but he is still a talented hitter. Where Mauer is being drafted now is low enough to take a chance with him...Stephen Vogt can hit with any catcher in the game, his defense is just okay. Vogt is doing his best this spring to prove to manager Joe Maddon that he belongs in the majors and behind the plate.

First Basemen

Top Targets: Bryan LaHair, Adam Dunn,
Post Hype: Chris Davis, James Loney
New Skills/Opportunity: Yonder Alonso, Anthony Rizzo

You may look at the names above and find it strange that two players on the same team are listed as sleepers. But Bryan LaHair plays a passable left field and the Chicago Cubs need all the bats they can get. Anthony Rizzo has been a beast this spring and deserves a shot to begin the season in the majors...Old man James Loney (not really that old) seemed to have himself a Jose Bautista moment last summer. After working with new hitting coach Dave Hansen, Bautista has changed his stance and swing to prevent his shoulder flying open and thus sapping his power. You can check out an objective review of the change at Chad Moriyama's Blog.
What is clear though is that Loney has changed his approach and swing over the last two months in a way that has drastically affected his hit distribution and production. As such, the possibility does exist that his numbers could improve significantly in 2012 if the changes he has made carry over on a consistent basis.
Third Basemen

Top Targets: Brett Lawrie, Martin Prado, Ryan Roberts
Post Hype: Ian Stewart, Edwin Encarnacion, Wilson Betemit
New Skills/Opportunity: Jimmy Paredes, Brandon Inge

Brett Lawrie has made such an impression on the baseball world that he has become monstrously overrated. I've seen more than one projection by respected analysts where he comes in hitting over .300 and approaching a 30/30 season. I would not pay the price he is getting right now...I prefer a low-cost Edwin Encarnacion or Wilson Betemit to $30 it will take to roster Lawrie. Both are scheduled to get nearly full-time at-bats this season...Jimmy Paredes will not be much of a keeper in most NL-only leagues with the Astros moving to the American League. Paredes should provide some cheap steals even if he finds himself filling a utility role rather than starting shortstop or third basemen...Brandon Inge is fighting for the starting second baseman job in Tigers camp. If he wins he should provide solid production for a low price.

Second Basemen

Top Targets: Jose Altuve, Ruben Tejada, Jemile Weeks
Post Hype: Gordon Beckham, Tyler Green, Sean Rodriguez
New Skills/Opportunity: Steve Lombardozzi,

Sometimes analysts will refer to a player and give his stats over his last 300 MLB at-bats. Often they are doing this unfairly. When a player gets 300 at-bats over four years and several separate call-ups, the opportunity to succeed in the majors is small. Tyler Green needs an opportunity to show he belongs in the majors. This spring he is competing for an opportunity thanks to the injury to Allen Craig...Gordon Beckham and Ozzie Guillen never seemed like a good mix to me. But I like his chances of a rebound under new manager Robin Ventura. It is almost like a change of scenery without actually going anywhere. The entire White Sox roster should benefit from a more relaxed environment...I love Jose Altuve, reminds me of Dustin Pedroia without the laser show.


Top Targets: Emilio Bonafacio, Dee Gordon
Post Hype: Sean Rodriguez, Jed Lowrie, Alcides Escobar
New Skills/Opportunity: Zack Cozart, Trevor Plouffe, Adrelton Simmons

Emilio Bonafacio has to prove that he can contribute on a daily basis even when his BABIP isn't soaring over .400 in one of his insane hot streaks. Even off the bench he's good for 20-30 steals so don't sweat the small stuff if he isn't named the regular center fielder...Dee Gordon is leading off for the Dodgers and could steal 80 bases if allowed to run at will. He has the green light thus far...Jed Lowrie could hit 20 homers and steal a few bases this season. He has a better bat than you think...Adrelton Simmons has only a small chance of becoming the Braves shortstop THIS season. But he is impressing everyone this spring.. He has a bat you need to remember when he gets his opportunity. I like him a lot more than Tyler Pastornicky on a long term basis but even Pastornicky should be able to steal you bases on the cheap.


Top Targets: Yoenis Cespedes, Shin Soo-Choo , Luke Scott,
Post Hype: Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider, Fernando Martinez, Domonic Brown,
New Skills/Opportunity: Lorenzo Cain, Nate Schierholtz, Michael Saunders

A friend suggested that I was bound to own Yoenis Cespedes this season based on my love for the toolsy young players with star potential. I could not argue with him. I just fear the price will turn me off. Clay Davenport sorted through all the Cuban statistics to come up with some projections and comparable players. Ultimately, it looks like Cespedes and Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles are not too far apart...Nate Schierholtz has been given a starting role in San Francisco (probably at the expense of Brandon Belt for now). He could cheaply provide 20-25 homers in full-time at-bats...If I get to Dollar Dayz in my NL-Only leagues I'd spend a dollar on Fernando Martinez...Michael Saunders says that if he goes down this season it will be done swinging the bat like a man. He hired a hitting coach Mike Bard to shorten his swing and teach him to utilize his lower half. He is using a 60-ounce bat in the cage so he can't revert back to a more "handsy" hitter. He will start the season as the Mariners center fielder.

Starting Pitchers

Top Targets: Ubaldo Jimenez, Johan Santana, Ryan Dempster, Max Scherzer
Post Hype: Brandon Morrow, Jonathan Sanchez, Homer Bailey
New Skills/Opportunity: Gavin Floyd, Matt Moore, Drew Pomeranz , Jeff Neiman, Luke Hochevar, Robbie Erlin

Johan Santana looks healthy. He's throwing in the low 90's. His fine control is not all the way back yet but he is throwing strikes...Ubaldo Jimenez has his velocity back and should be much better this season if he can avoid injury...Jeff Neiman and Luke Hochevar both showed improved skills in the second half of the 2012 season and could be very good for cheap money.

Relief Pitchers

Top Targets: Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen,
Post Hype: Scott Downs, Jeff Samardzija,
New Skills/Opportunity: Addison Reed, Cesar Cabral, Brian Shaw, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Mattheus, Brad Brach

Brad Brach was selected by the Padres in the 42nd round of the 2008 draft. He is the future closer of the Padres... Cesar Cabral was a Rule V pick dealt to the Yankees from the Royals for cash. The Yankees want him to make the team as their second lefty out of the pen...Do not draft Addison Reed as if he is already the closer, draft him as a future closer. This may not be the season he receives that opportunity.

Bench/1st Call-Up Players to Watch:
Luke Hughes, Michael Martinez, Eduardo Nunez, Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Ryan Flaherty, Matt Antonelli, Corey Brown,

Adam Laroche is not healthy. Tyler Moore could have a major league impact sooner than expected. Moore will not have a great OBP but he can slug 25-30 homers without question...The Phillies are an aging and brittle team. Michael Martinez could get a ton of playing time and his bat is improving. If Rick Ankiel can not get the job done in center field for the Nationals, Corey Brown could get a quick call-up. He impressed a lot of people this spring.